Dozens of members of a Lexington, KY, church continue to try to force out its pastor even though a lawsuit against him was dropped.
A uniformed Lexington police officer barred some members from the church Sunday, causing more criticism and backlash.
The lawsuit filed in November by two Southern Acres Christian Church members accused pastor Cameron McDonald of concentrating power and misusing church money. It was dismissed by Judge James Ishmael on Friday.
“Last week, my clients agreed that the lawsuit should be dismissed because this is a matter the church’s congregation must decide internally, prayerfully and peacefully,” said Joe Bilby, attorney for the plaintiffs.
“At least 54 members of the congregation believe Southern Acres needs a fresh start with new leadership,” Bilby said. A letter with their names was delivered Friday to the remainder of the congregation.
Some of those 54 were targeted by the officer Sunday and told to leave or face charges, according to church member Chance Staley and a recording of the officer’s remarks.
Staley documented his encounter with officer White, who met Staley outside the church entrance. White gave Staley his last name and badge number. A patrol car was parked near the entrance.
“If you do not abide by my lawful direction, of you cannot be on this property, then it becomes criminal trespassing, which in the state of Kentucky is an arrestable defense,” the officer told Staley. Police spokesman Jervis W. Middleton said the officer might have been working off duty. Off-duty work is permissible if approved by the department.
“It’s disgusting,” Staley said Monday of being turned away. “Anyone who has ever gone to a church has heard the lines, ‘you are welcome; come as you are.’ Even a non-believer knows that. To be told, ‘you are not welcomed here’… They are creating an exclusive club … and this is not of the Christian moral values.”
McDonald’s attorney Austin Wilkerson could not immediately comment Monday. Sunday, he told WKYT, the Herald-Leader’s reporting partner, “there were indications that there was going to be a disruption today.”
Staley said there was never talk of any disruption occurring at Southern Acres.
“The full congregation will have an opportunity to vote for a change in leadership on Feb. 4,” Bilby said.
SOURCE: MIKE STUNSON